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Ativan Withdrawal

Ativan, the brand name for lorazepam, is a member of the benzodiazepine class of drugs and is primarily prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It is also sometimes used to treat seizure disorders, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and to manage alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

5 Minute Read | Published Jul 26 2023 | Updated Feb 28 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Amber Asher
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Amber Asher
Reviewed by

Ativan is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration—this means that it has a moderate potential for diversion, misuse, and physiological dependence. When you develop a dependence on Ativan, you will experience uncomfortable and even potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly stop using it.

Ativan Withdrawal Symptoms

Chronic Ativan use may result in a physiological dependence, which means your body has adapted to the presence of this benzodiazepine. Due to these adaptations, your body can no longer function normally without Ativan.

When you abruptly quit Ativan use, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased body temperature
  • Rapid pulse rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Tremors or shakiness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Repetitive, purposeless movements (psychomotor agitation)
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures

Is Ativan Withdrawal Dangerous?

Yes, due to the risk of seizures, Ativan withdrawal can be extremely dangerous, which is why you should never try to detox from Ativan on your own. Approximately 20%-30% of people going through untreated sedative withdrawal experience a grand mal seizure.3 Seizures can be life-threatening without proper medical attention.

Additionally, severe Ativan or benzodiazepine withdrawal may produce auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations. While hallucinations themselves aren’t potentially fatal, delirium and hallucinations can have life-threatening consequences, such as accidents or violent or aggressive behavior.3

If you are addicted to Ativan and want to quit, you’ll want to find a medical detox program where you will receive 24/7 care, monitoring, and supervision to ensure your safety and comfort throughout the withdrawal process. The treatment team will be there to address any medical emergencies or complications that may arise.

Withdrawal Timeline

The onset and withdrawal timeline of a drug depends on its half-life, which is how long it takes for the substance to be reduced by 50% in your body.3 Ativan is relatively short-acting and its effects typically last about 10 hours or fewer.

Ativan withdrawal symptoms typically emerge within about 24 hours of last use, peak in intensity on the second day, and resolve within five days.3

The severity and duration of your Ativan withdrawal syndrome will depend on several factors, such as:

  • How much Ativan you are regularly using
  • How frequently you use Ativan
  • How long you’ve been using Ativan
  • Whether you mix Ativan with other substances like alcohol or opioids
  • Your individual physiology
  • Whether you’ve gone through Ativan withdrawal before

Once acute Ativan withdrawal has resolved, you may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) that persist for weeks or months after you quit. These protracted Ativan withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty with learning, problem solving, or memory
  • Apathy
  • Ativan cravings
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased sensitivity to stress

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms may fluctuate in severity and even disappear altogether at times, only to reappear later in stressful situations.

What Causes Ativan Withdrawal?

Ativan works by activating your gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) receptors, which causes a release of the neurotransmitter, GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that causes relaxation and is responsible for the anti-anxiety therapeutic effects of Ativan.

With chronic Ativan use, there is a reduced efficacy of GABA receptors, due to tolerance—thus requiring you to use more Ativan to experience the desired effects. This neuroadaptation of tolerance causes you to take larger and more frequent doses, which contributes to the development of physiological dependence. Once you are dependent on Ativan, you need to continue taking it to function optimally. Suddenly quitting will result in an excitatory state, the opposite of the inhibitory state caused by Ativan use.5 This excitatory state is responsible for Ativan withdrawal symptoms like rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure and body temperature, anxiety, and seizures.

Due to the uncomfortable nature of these Ativan withdrawal symptoms, you may take Ativan to relieve them. This can contribute to the uncontrollable pattern of drug-seeking and drug-using behavior that characterizes Ativan addiction.

Medical Detox Services

If you are addicted to Ativan and are thinking of quitting, you shouldn’t do it alone. Ativan withdrawal can be potentially life-threatening and requires around-the-clock medical care to prevent and treat any possible complications that may arise, such as seizures, agitation, or hallucinations.

The safest detox setting is an inpatient medical program in a hospital. At a medical detox program for Ativan, you will receive:

  • 24/7 care and oversight
  • Supportive care, such as IV fluids
  • Medications for various symptoms
  • A safe, Ativan tapering schedule
  • Emotional support throughout the process

Making the decision to enter an Ativan detox program is no small feat—it takes courage. We want to help you on your journey to a healthy, drug-free life. Give us a call at (800) 429-7690 to find a detox program near you.

Medications for Ativan Withdrawal

While there is no medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Ativan withdrawal, many medical options exist. For one, your medical team may choose to slowly taper you off of Ativan, which means they gradually wean you off of this prescription medication as opposed to stopping it cold turkey. Tapering off your Ativan dosage will minimize withdrawal symptoms and prevent the emergence of withdrawal complications like seizures.

All the while, your treatment team will monitor and supervise your Ativan withdrawal and prescribe medications to manage various symptoms as needed. Some of these medications may include:6,7

  • Melatonin: Research suggests melatonin may help treat insomnia caused by Ativan withdrawal.
  • Paxil: The antidepressant, Paxil, may improve anxiety and depression during Ativan withdrawal.

Post-Detox Addiction Treatment

Once you go through Ativan detox and achieve medical stabilization, it’s time to transition into an Ativan addiction treatment program. While detox is a necessary component on the continuum of addiction care, it doesn’t address the underlying factors that caused you to abuse Ativan in the first place. Without professional Ativan addiction treatment, you may not have the tools necessary to avoid relapse in the future.

An Ativan rehab program can equip you with relapse prevention skills, such as:

  • Emotional regulation skills
  • Impulse control
  • Anger management
  • Stress management
  • Drug refusal skills
  • Healthy coping skills
  • Sober social skills

Ativan rehab occurs on an inpatient or outpatient basis, with inpatient rehabs being the more intensive and structured environment that provides 24/7 treatment while you live at the facility. Outpatient treatment allows for more flexibility as you live at home while attending treatment. Both treatment settings offer therapy and counseling as well as drug education classes and other services. The right treatment setting for you will depend on your needs, situation, budget, insurance, and more. Call our helpline at (800) 429-7690 to find an Ativan addiction treatment program in your area.

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